Every movement begins with a moment.
Coming off the high of CES — where I was surrounded by technology’s here-and-now, up-and-coming and yet-to-be-revealed inventions — I had a realization: Social is no longer the shiny, innovative object it once was.
Don’t get me wrong. Social is still a progressive, evolving space where brands can test and challenge insights, strategies and approaches. What it isn’t, however, is a place open to undisciplined speculation, superfluous content and haphazard experimentation. Indeed, our social media marketing team believes that, in 2014, brands will be expected to be social experts. Any misstep in the social arena will be highly scrutinized (and potentially criticized) by peers, competitors, agencies, media and consumers. In summary, there is no longer room for failure.
So what do brands need to do to prepare for 2014? When discussing the question, our agency’s social media marketing leaders identified the following six strategies to incorporate into your practice.
1. Don’t let content marketing confound you.
Teresa Caro, SVP Social and Content Marketing
In the coming year, brands will experience multiple content marketing pressures: too much content, not enough measurement of content, siloed organizational structures (brand), and the redefinition of Content Strategy (agency). And it's only going to get worse. In 2014, the best way to keep from being confounded is to start with a strategic approach. Create a content marketing plan that aligns with your overarching business goals. Then implement it, measure it, analyze it and adjust it accordingly.
2. Paid, owned and earned must work together.
Danielle Donnelly, Sr. Director Social
The omnipresence of social has forced brands and marketers to put consumers at the center. This has changed how we do business, and agencies are taking notice. In August of 2013, for example, Publicis Groupe acquired Engauge and merged our agency with Moxie. A few months later, Edelman hired VivaKi’s Chris Paul as the company’s first global director of paid media. And many more agency moves reflect how we are looking to support the changing needs of our clients regarding paid, owned and earned media (POEM).
At the center of this evolving agency model is the strategist, an individual whose role is less about channels and more about breaking down silos. The strategist forces social channel experts to speak with media about paid amplification and content, and about gaining access through media buys. He or she also gets media talking to PR about influential blogger content that can be leveraged and amplified within unique ad formats. The strategist eliminates barriers, opens lines of communication and connects all the dots from one channel to the next.
3. Influencer marketing needs to be objective-driven.
Julia Cantor, Sr. Digital Publicist
Influencers are your most profitable relationships. They are the people with networks of trust online and off, driving actions and purchase decisions. However, as communication channels and the social Web evolve, the definition of "influencers" is growing more complex. Influencers range from Will.i.am, a nationally known recording artist with seven Grammies and over 11 million followers on Twitter, to Caroline Bomstein, an Amherst College sophomore who is a tastemaker, a social media power user and contributor to HerCampus.com. Each is an influencer, yet each achieves different objectives ranging from brand awareness/reach to brand resonance/purchase intent. In 2014, we'll see brands activating influencers across the spectrum with true objective-driven approaches.
4. Real-time marketing must be refined and operationalized.
Lauren Thomas, Sr. Social Engagement Manager
As we discussed in “The Realities of Real-Time,” Altimeter defines Real-Time Marketing (RTM) as “the strategy and practice of reacting with immediacy in digital channels to external events and triggers.” It’s not about throwing a bunch of people in a room and hoping something cool happens and that your response gets noticed. There is no longer any mystery around RTM. Like any other form of advertising, it has become strategic, measured and practiced. If you want to do it right in 2014, your approach must be refined and operationalized.
5. The growth of the graph is killing mobile.
Annalise Kaylor, Sr. Social Engagement Manager
User intent is still a quiet yet amplified part of social evolution — especially as Google and Facebook continue to refine their algorithms to favor user experience above marketing needs. Google isn’t just the "king of search" anymore. It’s now an ecosystem with user intent as its driving force. Consumers want their digital experience to move seamlessly across devices, and the graph delivers. This is the slow death of mobile — not because mobile is going away, but because the need for on-demand, inherently social connection is so strong that mobile is naturally woven into the ecosystem. It no longer relies on its own call-out. Check out Engauge’s latest blog post for more mobile mind-sets to adopt in 2014.
6. Social disruption: Remember to change the channel.
Dustin R. Thompson, Director Social
Think about your day for a second. Odds are (and statistics prove) your phone is within six feet of you at all times. You're checking your phone every 6.5 minutes — stalking your Facebook friends, perusing the news on Twitter and watching amateur photography careers unfold on Instagram. You can check in to locations, TV shows and even the beer you're drinking, all while exploring dinner ideas on Pinterest and, let's be honest, playing Candy Crush.
In 2014, brands need to accept the disruption and continue to invest where their consumers are spending the bulk of their time. Social media, especially Facebook, is rivaling, if not surpassing (the jury is still out), the reach of TV. We're talking guaranteed impressions — actual people seeing your ad and not some statistical sampling of who or how many viewed it. If you want to target Betty, a 24-year-old mother who lives in Columbus, drinks Starbucks and loves waterskiing, then your media plan better include paid social. If it doesn't, cross your fingers that Betty is watching ESPN when your ad runs.
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